Lead Nurturing in Plain English
Lead nurturing is about keeping conversations going over time, building relationships and allowing the creation of interest in products and/or services while bringing the leads to sales-ready status. It is about cultivating and maintaining mind share, building and sustaining interest in what you have to offer, and developing trusted relationships with those who could possibly be your next customer. Lead nurturing is exceptionally effective in articulating your value proposition to maintain, in a subtle and consistent manner, a stream of relevant information that is important for the audience to know.*
Marketing / Sales Funnel
- Lead Sources
- Leads are accumulated through various lead generation channels (trade shows, webinars, mailers, etc.)
- 25% of the leads are sales-ready and can go directly to the sales team for prospecting
- 25% are unqualified and irrelevant and may be safely discarded
- 50% are qualified marketing leads but not yet sales-ready. These accelerate toward the sale at varying rates and their journey through the sales funnel should be customised to fit different needs and timelines.
- Early stages – Low Acceleration Stay-in-Touch Campaigns – Campaigns that ‘drip’ relevant content to prospects over time, gradually educating and building trust for your company
- Mid-funnel – Medium Acceleration Lead Lifecycle Campaigns – Campaigns that ensure movement and interaction with prospects, even if they are not yet sales-ready
- End-of-funnel – High Acceleration Campaigns that try to accelerate prospects towards the sale by providing relevant ‘nudges’ based on specific lead characteristics or sales updates
- Lead Handoff Leads are pushed from marketing to sales
- Lead Recycling Leads are cycled back to the top of the funnel for further nurturing because the lead was not yet ready to buy after proposal.
Lead Nurturing Systems
- Nurturing involves maintaining a relationship with leads through regularly-scheduled, customized communications, such as “Drip Campaigns”.
- Lead nurturing is scheduled at regular intervals to deliver the benefits of a multi-touch campaign.
- With lead nurturing systems, subsequent action points in the campaign can be based on the precise activity of the lead.
- These campaigns guide prospects individually through the funnel according to their lead characteristics.
- Three key characteristics: Demographics, BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing), Behavioural Indicators.
- Lead Characteristics are critical signifiers that determine the sales-readiness of a lead.
- Lead scoring ranks a lead’s level of interest and sales readiness according to a pre-determined scoring methodology.
- Marketing communications are customized to match the prospect’s lead characteristics and degree of “sales-readiness”.
- Every activity the prospect does is given a score.
- When the scores reach a pre-determined threshold, the lead is deemed sales-ready and transferred to the sales team.
Content Mapping with Buyer’s Persona
Content mapping for lead nurturing is the process of preparing and organizing your content so that it can be distributed to your prospects at the right time based on their needs and stages in the buying cycle. A content map based on buyer personae:
- Helps organize content that can address questions at various stages of the buying cycle.
- Creates a blueprint for content distribution through multiple channels.
- Serves as the primary content inventory for the purpose of reference and re-purposing.
* Adapted from “Lead Nurturing for the Complex Sale” by Brian J. Carroll
Courtesy: www.b2bento.com (Reproduced with permission)
The B2B buying process has undergone a sea change in the last decade or so. Access to product information, customer feedbacks, industry opinions etc. has made it easier to research on a company and how well its offering fit the requirements of the buyer.
However, the overload of information many a times makes it difficult to choose. After all, it is not easy to choose from a list of vendors, who all claim, they are the best, offer the most revolutionary products and have a huge list of customers who would vouch for their professionalism and the abilities of their product.
I personally think that like, charity, good manners etc. even a good purchase decision begins at home or in this case within your company.
Apart from clarity on the problem at hand and the possible solutions that will help resolve it, it is important to understand how adaptive your company and your resources would be to a solution. This will ensure, that you will buy a solution which is least disruptive in your work environment and yet delivers all that it promises.
In this post I would like to discuss, which kinds of companies or CMOs should never opt for a marketing automation solution….because for them, it would be both a waste of time and money. If you think your company identifies itself with any of the below mentioned mindset descriptions, then maybe its time you gave up on even considering buying a marketing automation solution, unless of course you decide to change your outlook.
"I can replace my Marketing team with a Marketing Automation solution"
During my interactions with various individuals who are still getting to know marketing automation, the most common query I come across is - "Does marketing automation replace - the marketing department"? And I can almost read on their faces, how while putting across the query they are mentally calculating on how much they will save on doing away with their marketing team :)
The answer is 'NO'. A marketing automation solution is not a replacement for your marketing team and if any vendor has given you this impression, then you should steer clear of them immediately.
Marketing automation is a solution which assists your marketing team in finding more qualitative leads and prioritizing them, understanding the needs and requirements of these leads, easing the process of nurturing them when not sale-ready and measuring the return on the company's marketing investment and marketing department's contribution to the revenue generation process within the company.
You still need your marketers to strategically think and plan lead generation, nurturing and management campaigns and to assist prospects in the decision making process through their buyer journey.
"Marketing Automation will double my sales"
Now most marketing automation companies will make you believe that statement. But trust me, it is not true, if it were the case, every B2B company would have already installed a marketing automation system and saved our industry from spending millions on educating the buyers, on how this tool is effective in increasing the productivity of their sales and marketing teams.
In reality, a marketing automation solution ensures that you don't miss out on all those wonderful business opportunities, just because your lead was lazy or reluctant to fill in the contact form on your website. Did you know that a typical B2B company can identify and qualify less than 10% of their web site visitors - that too, if they're lucky! Now since you don't see luck being sold in the market, there is marketing automation, which ensures that you are able to track all those leads which were interested in checking out your product, but left without sharing their info.
Add to that the other insights that marketing automation solutions provide, about the lead, like - their 'company name', 'pages of interest','intent', 'possible identity of the visitor', etc. and you have enough insight to proactively pursue your lead and pitch to him, than wait for him to get back to you.
So yes, there is definitely a higher chance of you closing in more sales, because you are introducing yourself and creating a mindshare among your leads at an early stage and because you have multiplied the number of leads your are now tracking in your lead funnel. But that no way guarantees 100% increase in sales, improvement for sure, if you manage to set your lead management processes right.
" Marketing Automation will do the magic trick"
Not really, officially "abracadabra" is supposed to do that, not your marketing automation solution. Stop believing that the moment you buy a marketing automation solution, everything will be perfect. For marketing automation solutions to really work, they require processes to be put in place, thoughtful resource allocation and an understanding between your sales and marketing on how they will manage the leads in your company's sales funnel.
If you are under any impression that marketing automation is a quick fix solution for your company's problems, then maybe you should look for another solution.
" Marketing Automation = Innovation"
Innovation is innovation and no marketing automation platform can be a substitute to that. If your company is not innovating and offering its customers and prospects a better value proposition, no solution can really help you. Research & Development, regular product upgrades are all important to ensure that both your marketing and sales can stand up to your competitors in the market and increase your revenue share.
If you have to pick between innovation and marketing automation, my vote would be for innovation any day, if you don't have a good product, you won't need your marketing and sales teams for long.
" I must have a Marketing Automation Solution, because I see it works for my competitor"
You have heard that before, haven't you? Agree your competitor has it and you have seen their sales go up, but it is not because they bought the marketing automation solution, it is because they learnt how to implement and use it effectively.
Please do not buy a marketing automation solution, if you have no intentions of using it appropriately. It not only affects you, but also us - the marketing automation vendors, when every time you go out and tell your other industry associates.."Ah! Marketing automation, its just a fad, it doesn't really work".
Lead nurturing is an important aspect of B2B marketing and plays a pivotal role in the conversion of leads into qualified leads and qualified leads into customers.
Lead nurturing is best known as the process of educating and interacting with your leads consistently, building trust and gaining mindshare in the process till they are ready to buy from you.
But despite the best of intents, many lead nurturing programs fail to deliver the desired results, simply because they become nothing more than monthly email blasts to a list of leads in your database.
So what is it that really differentiates a lead nurturing activity from your regular email marketing activity?
Well the answer lies in your approach and how well you try to address the needs of your leads, having a basic understanding of your leads and their needs is critical to a successful lead nurturing program.
If you are ready to spend some time on putting together your lead nurturing campaigns there is a great marketing tactic, which can really improve the quality and success rate of your campaigns.
The B2C industry has always relied on building buyer personas, which then become the core of all their marketing programs. This method of breaking down you prospects into different groups based on their demographics, interests, motivations etc. can go a long way in customizing your messaging to their needs and ensuring they in turn identify with the messaging and respond to it.
When applied to B2B, building lead/corporate personas based on the size of the company, industry type, their search query, expressed intent etc. can help marketing teams customize their messaging in a way that is in line with the needs of their leads. You can also add your product use case scenarios if possible for the personas you create, this will help you pre-empt a need and offer a more relevant solution than a generic one.
This works best when you have a large lead database to tackle and you need a starting point for initiating your lead nurturing process.
Base them on your past interactions with clients - You have been measuring your marketing efforts and know what kind of leads are entering your funnel, you have been noticing their behavior and their responses, use this data in putting together the lead personas.
Take Sales feedback - Sales guys work closely with the leads and hence have a more real feel of their needs, apprehensions and requirements, speak to them, use their experience and insights to build your personas.
Talk to your customer service guys - They are the ones who deal with the customer on a regular basis, they can share with you data on the experience matrix of your company's existing customers
Work backwards - Since you understand your product and its real world applications, think of the real life problem scenarios and the kind of leads who are more likely to face those problems, develop their personas accordingly.
Creating lead personas can come across as a tedious task, but is very useful in ensuring you connect with your leads better. Also, the persona templates should be a work-in-progress document, with your team fine-tuning it every now on then, based on the responses they get or other insights they might come across.
Once you have your lead personas are in place you can also use them to develop content that will help connecting with these leads, when reaching out to them as part of your lead nurturing campaign. Creating personas will not only make your marketing efforts more targeted, but will also help in building a better relationship with your leads.
Image courtesy - Toon Pool.com
What if I told you the last three digital paid media campaigns that my company, lonelybrand, executed earned an average 31.92 percent conversion rate? (To be clear — we’re talking about the number of successful conversions divided by the total number of paid clicks.)
In a world where marketers are faced with abysmal conversion rates and polluted client or stakeholder expectations, such figures might seem virtually impossible.
But our 30-percent plus conversion figures are real. I’m going to share why all advertising and public relations agencies — and B2B brands in general — have a clean shot at earning the same results.
Create relevant, compelling content
I can hear the collective “Ugh…” from behind my screen. Sorry to reiterate the obvious folks, but the quality and timeliness of your content matters for paid media. If you’re spending to support bits of content — be they blog posts, white papers, research reports or apps — the value has to be there. So go the extra mile and make your content highly valuable to a group of people you want to do business with using your expertise to provide answers to the questions that potential clients haven’t even asked yet. Our experience tells us that the best conversion rates will come from niche-focused content, so don’t be afraid to get specific.
Implement a superior user experience
Collecting data in the age of instant gratification means you need to provide a slick experience for site visitors, and that experience needs to be extensible to work with future content. Clearly note who should be most interested in your content, then plan to ask for just enough data to be useful — but not so much that your visitors get turned off. I recommend only requesting first and last name, company, and a valid email address at the start of their engagement. An email address represents the opportunity for continued contact, allowing you to pique your target’s interest in the future with compelling content and a little social CRM ingenuity.
Choose your target wisely
For consumer-facing campaigns, reach is typically wide and waste is high. That’s part of the reason conversion rates for major online retailers can be as low as 1 percent. The science (if you can call it that) of content marketing has demonstrated we can earn higher conversion rates with niche-focused content. Niche content appeals to a small population, and through advanced paid media targeting you can hone in on those more-desirable targets. Visitors are more likely to tune in if your content is targeted at their unique situation (e.g., insurance company looking to increase quoting behavior) versus generalized fluff content (enhance your company’s social media). Sure, CPC will be higher (in the $3.00+ range), but visitors will be much more likely to register, download, or otherwise perform the desired action.
Place attention-winning ads
Presenting niche content to a niche audience means using language that is direct and impactful. Focus on what matters to your audience at the time the ad will run. If it’s 2012 planning be sure to note that in the subject line. Running content on mobile quoting behavior for national insurance companies? Make sure your audience knows it’s a “must read” for insurance marketing professionals, as in the example below.
Track, report, and optimize
Campaigns are meant to have a beginning and an end, but in the world of content marketing, the long tail lives on long after the paid media is turned off. That means using the relatively short time you have with a paid media campaign that supports and quickly optimizes a piece of content. Start with a group of ads (we recommend at least 10) and cut those that underperform.
In the example below, we tested a variation of ads on LinkedIn for a recently published white paper. The copy was identical, but it turned out that the image choice made a significant impact on clicks. The ad with our writer’s face generated 29 clicks; the ad with our marble logo generated only two. Performing this test allowed us to optimize the campaign and save on ad dollars.
Eat what you kill
Generating stellar conversion rates for content marketing can be a blessing and a curse. Make sure you have the necessary infrastructure to funnel leads to someone that has time to handle them with care and follow up with nurturing behavior. This means putting in the hours to organize warm leads within your database and ensure the info finds its way into appropriate email marketing lists and social networks.
Make it worth your while
A disciplined digital communications program for your agency or B2B firm will produce results. Spending money on digital paid media to support your content habit only makes sense when your investment is for the long run and supported by five other key areas of digital: social, CRM, mobile, search and analytics.
About the Author: Nicholas is the Digital Strategy Lead at lonelybrand, where he spends his days (and many long nights) inventing the future of digital communications by connecting consumers and decision makers to brands. His team is responsible for quickly implementing turnkey digital programs that earn results for agencies and brands around the world. His 15-year career in digital marketing has resulted in numerous television and media appearances, including notable articles in Bloomberg-Businessweek, Forrester’s Web Strategy, Brand New (an Amazon best-seller) and Advertising Age. Follow Nicholas on Twitter @ADMAVEN.
Syndicate Partners: Content Marketing Institute
Image Courtesy: Content Marketing Institute
“1960, playground fight, not involved, unjustly caned.”
Thats a one line story, I read on a site called Onlineflashfiction.com.
I was born almost 20 years after the referred incident took place, but the story still managed to send me down the memory lanes of my childhood and reminded me of another incident where I was unjustly caned . That’s what stories do, they help you connect with an emotion, a memory or a thought.
Stories unfold all around us, on billboards, on television sets, on youtube, in movie theaters, in books, during conversations, almost everywhere, everyday most of our waking hours and sometimes even when we are deep in sleep.
Everyone loves a good story, if that was not the case, film and publishing industries around the globe would have perished and our social conversations would have turned mundane.
A good story has the power to inspire, to motivate and to involve its reader. Stories also help a person to relate and retain the information shared. Unlike data, statistics and scientific equations which require time and effort to register, good stories are capable of traversing the depths of our mind and staying there for a long time.
This is why storytelling is a very popular concept in the B2C world. Advertisers and marketers have used storytelling effectively in their campaigns to build brand awareness and customer loyalty. In a B2C scenario it works because you have to relate to someone at an individual level, if your story appealed to this person, he will in all probability buy your product.
But can the same be replicated in a B2B scenario, where it is usually a group of individuals who decide on wether to buy that packaging machine or software subscription? Longer sales cycles also make story telling difficult, it is no mean task to grab someone’s interest and then keep entertaining them for months together.
So can this effective marketing technique be used within the B2B marketing limitations? Well the answer is yes, as long as you keep one thing in mind,
“If a story is not about the hearer he [or she] will not listen . . . . The strange and foreign is not interesting–only the deeply personal and familiar.” — John Steinbeck (East of Eden)
Below are 5 steps to storytelling if you are a B2B company
Include all characteristics of a good story
- A theme - So what is your story about, is it about a problem that plagues your industry and you are trying to solve or is it about how you built your product, your company? Decide on a theme, which you will develop further and support with more interesting information.
- A plot – Define the plot, how will your story play out, what incidents/updates happen etc.
- A Character - Characters give life to your story. Your characters can be someone inspired by real individuals like your prospects, or company founder, or an engineer in your organization, or even a TV star. Choose your characters wisely, they will help your listener feel the emotions and relate to your narration. Add details to their personality sketch that are similar to your inspiration, this will help your listener identify and relate. Flesh out the characters by putting down the kind of challenges they face, their life, work style etc.
- Dramatic appeal – To make an impression a story has to have some dramatic appeal, ‘hold your breath’ & ‘it could be me’ moments, for eg: you can think of a worst case scenario or severe problem in your industry and showcase how your characters overcome it with the help of your solution.
- Relevance to listeners – Every story should have a set-up, a build-up and then some pay off – some take away that is relevant to the listener, which he can register and retain and connect with on an emotional level.
Narrate part by part
Telling a story in one go works best if the product is for B2C audience, in B2B you should break you story into parts/chapters/acts and develop the plot and lead your prospects along, this will ensure they are hooked to your story. Also, when you spread it across a time frame, you can always add ongoing news elements and updates to your story to make it more seasonable. In B2B many companies run lead nurturing and drip marketing campaigns, you can weave a story around the content you plan to share and slowly build up the interest of your leads in your product.
Involve your listener
Involve them by building the story around them, talking of a situation they are most likely to be in. Depending on the medium, you can even get them to participate in the storytelling process. You can ask them questions and let their answers move the story forward, it will engage them and improve your level of interaction with them.
Use different marketing mediums
To make it really interesting for your listeners use different marketing mediums to tell the story, narrate some part of it as a videos, photographs, an online game, a podcast, a questionnaire or an email. Every time you send out a message to your prospects, use a different medium for storytelling, this breaks monotony and makes the communication more interesting. Ensure the story is fully available on all these formats, but when sending out to your prospects send out in bits and pieces, if your concept is interesting, you will have them hooked and they will wait for your next update.
Apply the storytelling technique to your current marketing collateral
Marketers can use the technique of storytelling while writing case studies and whitepapers as well. Talking of real life scenarios and how the events panned out can be interesting and inspirational reads. Also, when the narration is easy and free flowing it is easier to absorb and understand. I think TED videos are a great example to support this point, the way the TED speakers turn the most complex of scientific ideas into content consumable by masses by weaving a story around their technology is just amazing.
The biggest problem with B2B marketing is that we are too focussed on data, facts and figures and other heavy duty stuff. Our marketing collaterals also reflect our love for such technical details, but do we have any idea how much of this is really consumed by our target audience.
The C-level executives who take the final call are only interested in knowing how a solution will improve their business output, not in the technicalities. Most of your buyers hardly care about the minute details of your solution but are more concerned about how your solution will solve their company’s problem and does it really deliver what it promises?
In the words of Robert Mckee, “Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact”. If used appropriately by marketing teams, storytelling can help companies put across their messaging in an effective and innovative way, helping them in connecting with their prospects and making them believe in the capabilities of their company’s offerings.
Image courtesy – kstoolkit.org
Services marketing has typically engaged in push-communication so far: webinars that bring a couple of customers to speak to a set of prospects, email marketing that upsell a particular service or product, trade shows, cold-calling, and so on. While these have worked well, they are getting to be expensive, showing poorer results everyday, and failing to justify any metrics.
Let us stop for a minute to think what these tools help us achieve. Do they allow us to listen to what customers are saying? Not really. If I downloaded a whitepaper from your website, isn't your telemarketing team immediately dialing my number to find out if I would buy your company services? I thought your whitepaper would help me understand your industry expertise—while I am making a judgment call.
In effect, B2B marketing has so far focused on lead generation: through carefully crafted press releases, form-driven case studies and whitepaper download, live chats on web pages-all designed to pull a visitor into some form of contact.
Successful IT services sales leaders, on the other hand, will always tell you that they focus on building relationships, which eventually bring the sales. If your company's marketing needs to align with the sales, there are some fundamental changes in approach that you may need to consider:
- Organizations are run by people, and people like to be listened to-not always talked to
- Marketing must move from controlling communication to letting go, and create conversations
- Conversations in turn must make sense to both sides
If these concepts resonate with you, social media marketing could deliver rich results-over time. Read on to know how.
Courtesy: www.purplepatchservices.com (Reproduced with permission)
Image Courtesy: webtreats
Valentine's day is round the corner and the season of expressing love is right here. Everyone wants to be loved, you, me, brands, companies, employees, buyers, vendors, just about anyone and everyone you can think of. But the point is can you make someone fall in love with you, your brand, your product, your services?
Of course, as a marketer, I can share a hundred ideas with you, which I believe will make almost anyone fall in love with anything you want…but lets keep that aside for another day! Today, I just want to share some thoughts on the psychology behind love and how you can use the same to make your prospects fall in love with your offerings.
Psychologist M.Farouk Radwan wrote an interesting book sometime back, How to Make Someone Fall in Love With You. According to his website, he has sold more than 500,000 copies, that is a lot of people looking for innovative ideas to woo :)
Recently a friend shared an article on FB by Radwan, based on the book where he talks of 6 methods and ways that can help in making someone fall in love with you.
While I am not sure, how successful his 500,000 readers have been with wooing their object of love, I was thrilled with his suggestions, because to my surprise or not really… I found the same logic works for finding love in business too..check out for yourself.
"I have what you need" - Yes, that is the first step towards being loved. Send out a clear message to your prospects 'I have what you need'. To do that, you need to clearly figure out and communicate the problem your offering is trying to solve and how your solution is different from what your competitors are offering. When looking for love, people are just trying to fill a void in their current state, it is the same with prospects too, when they start looking out for a vendor, it is to fill a gap or solve a problem within their area of functioning.
"Meeting Criteria" - Radwan states in his book, "Inside the mind of every one of us is a quick list of basic criteria that must be met before we even consider loving a person. Although meeting these criteria does not neccessarily mean that we will love the person, not meeting any of them makes it certain that we will never love him."
Your prospects are no different, most have a basic criteria for vendors, it could be anything from - the size of the company, client portfolio, service contract period etc. It will help your efforts, if you are aware of all such preset criterion, to ensure you tweak and customize your proposal when approaching a prospect. This exercise may not exactly get you the deal but it will definitely improve your chances.
"Does Trying Harder Work?" - According to Radwan, it surely does in matters of the heart. In business too it makes a lot of sense. It does not matter if your prospect already has a vendor or is pursuing your competitor, it is never too late to try and make a genuine and attractive offer. Of course you have to evaluate how much is the risk involved, but if having a company on your client list is absolutely necessary and it is going to increase your credibility and visibility in the market….you should definitely try harder and harder.
"Program his Subconscious Mind" - Radwan asks his readers to tame the subconscious mind of their love interest, he says, "The subconscious mind can be made to accept something by continious repetition. Chasing the subconscious mind requires no more than staying in sight, and letting him/her see you a lot. Even if you hardly talk, just staying in his/her sight is enough to enforce your position."
In pure business terms, Drip marketing, Lead nurturing etc. are some of the activities which will help you remain in sight of your prospect and help in programming their subconscious mind. The more your prospect knows about you, the higher your chances of impressing them.
"More Subconscious Mind Programming" - Radwan suggests, "If you have mutual friends then you are even more lucky, since the subconscious mind is programmed much easier by trusted sources. The more your friends talk to him/her about how great you are (something you'll probably have to arrange) the better your chances of having a place in his/her subconscious mind."
Now does that ring a bell? Understand why your marketing keeps asking for customer testimonials, case studies and customer referrals - it is all for programming the subconscious mind of your prospects. Now go one step ahead, ask your happy customers to endorse you, promote you on social forums like Twitter, Linkedin etc. Find a common connect between you and your prospect and use them to put forward your offerings. Nothing beats a reference from a known source, it is a sure way of making to the top of the list without much effort.
"Position yourself well"- You have always known that one, in business the law of attraction works completely on the basis of how you position your company. Your positioning is how prospects perceive and relate to your brand. Also like I mentioned in the post earlier, your positioning should also help you differentiate your offerings from your competitors.
Radwan specifies, "What is the first word that comes to people's minds when they hear your name mentioned? Do they think of the word "strong","confident" or "loser"? Positioning is simply associating yourself with a certian image that is printed in people's minds."
It is imperative for every company to have a positioning statement, which clearly defines there stand in the crowd. You can position yourself as a 'market leader', 'innovator' or 'reliable partner' anything that goes with the way you intend to project your company in the market.
Companies and brands are made of people and by people and people react usually the same way to Laws of attraction. But many a times as marketers we fail to see our prospects and customers as individuals, in our minds we see them has huge office buildings with super logos or as news headlines and numbers on Fortune magazine lists, maybe that is why we fail to woo them.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Image Courtesy: ahylton
Delivering the Punch: The Final Part of B2B Lead Generation & Nurturing
This is the final part of a four-part series, with nuggets for the beginner from a Practitioner’s Dossier.
Click on the links below, if you missed PARTS 1, 2 & 3
PART 1 - ‘THE HUNT’
PART 2 – ‘THE COURTSHIP’
PART 3 – ‘THE QUALIFICATION’
THE FINAL STAGE: ‘DELIVERING THE PUNCH’
It is easy for marketing to relegate itself into the ‘support’ function, especially in the final stages of the lead’s lifecycle. A good marketer however delivers crucial punches at every stage, including in the final laps, to strongly influence the last mile.
PACKING IN THE PUNCHES: FLIPPING CHARTS VS CREATING EXPERIENCE
Dialoging during the final stages is usually spread over several weeks. This throws up plenty of opportunities to make a significant difference. The B2B marketer must actively explore the various touch points, to create customer experience, to reinforce key messages.
It might be fashionable to huff and puff about doing away with the Power Point. Instead of pontificating, get cracking to make a smart deck. Or make your presentation on a flash demo. Or go the extra length to capture your story on a 3 to 4 minute film to convey your message. This works especially in the last rounds, when it is least expected.
After being short-listed to the last 3 vendors in a multi-million dollar deal, a B2B organization decided to do away with the Power Point for the final pitch. The strategy, capability, agility – everything was demonstrated and brought alive on a video. Everything in the film was specific to the prospect’s business (a world no. 3 in its domain), the problem and the ‘how’ of the solution. When the deal was awarded to this organization over two larger and higher ranked vendors, the film had clearly played a crucial part in getting across the right message, in the right manner, when it had mattered most.
MAKING IT PRETTY V/S MAKING IT CUTTING-EDGE
Every effort goes to make the whole. But stop to check if you have prioritized and aligned efforts with time and resource availability. Theory and methodology are good for generic collateral. Whether it is for an RFP or for the final presentation, pull out all stops to earn credibility. Reducing costs, improving efficiency or increasing customer satisfaction, whatever the promise – show how you will deliver it. Here lies the edge.
THEORY VS REALITY
Every good marketing organization knows that the pitch in the last mile requires a razor sharp approach. The prospect visit to vendor campus affords an excellent opportunity to create a differentiation and make an impression. Instead of the customary board room huddles weaved in with working luncheons and center/campus walk-throughs, you can turn the entire visit on its head as strategic capability showcase program.
Dedicate at least half a day where sales, marketing and your top leadership will take the back seat. Orchestrate an “Expertise where it matters” program and get your project leaders, engineers, developers, customer service reps – the people who will be handling the nuts and bolts of the program – to have solid interaction hours with the visiting prospect team.
WAITING VS ENGAGING:
Once the key discussions and presentations are over, it is time to wait and it is usually the sales team that is in touch with the prospect. However, marketing can come up with refreshing tactics to keep the prospect engaged during this period. A dedicated micro site with high knowledge content and interactive / DIY pages will add a strong element of stickiness and credibility. Marketing should also work closely with sales during this period to address concerns proactively.
Whatever you do, keep them engaged and reinforce your promise in different ways.
WIN OR LOSE - FOCUS ON THE LESSONS LEARNED
Irrespective of the end result, the opportunity to learn is immense. Post deal win-loss analysis is common. However, make sure that you go back to the lessons regularly to absorb, reflect and learn.
When your ‘lead’ does the front-flip successfully to become a ‘deal’ – go ahead, celebrate and reinforce that a good marketing organization leads first (pun unintended) and supports next.
This exclusive guest post was written by Azra Fathima who is a branding and communication specialist and regularly blogs at http://az-azrasblog.blogspot.com. You can also follow her on twitter atwww.twitter.com/azrafathima.
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This is Part II a four-part series about B2B Lead Generation with nuggets for beginners from a Practitioner’s Dossier.
If you missed PART I – ‘THE HUNT’, click here.
STAGE 2 – ‘THE COURTSHIP’
After the hunt, begins the nurturing of a lead. This is a prospect contact program that requires a strenuous and unwavering focus on every communication that is going out to targeted members in the prospect organization.
So what makes lead courting successful?
1. Content. Customization. Creativity.
a. Content: Knowledge-driven content is powerful ammo in the marketer’s arsenal. Share (with your prospect) insights, data, findings - what you saw, what you observed; your learnings; keep them coming back for more with white papers, articles, reports, webinars and blogs.
Generating knowledge-driven content is one of the biggest headaches for marketing. Ensure that you have a robust system in place that allows your leaders and Subject matter experts (SMEs) to contribute to a calendared content plan.
Marketing can also do its bit for developing meaningful content. Make sure a specialist business author within or hired by your organization is crafting the pieces that are meant to strike at the heart of your prospect issues. Prospect content, unlike routine/generic collateral, has a singular focus – to create stickiness and generate consistent, positive response.
All the research that you did in ‘The Hunt’ stage will now pay off. Armed with insights and info, your lead nurturing campaigns can be customized to the last detail. (Read more below in item b - ‘Customize’).
b. Customize: Every prospect is different. Address them, their business, their pain and your solution individually and watch them (and your sales organization) fall in love with you.
Email campaigns, if done well, will allow for intimate customization. You can tailor your prospect email campaign on every possible aspect – name, title/role, subject line, a recent prospect event (award, speech, interview etc.), industry/vertical, language & spellings.
Here are some examples:
Example 1: “I was browsing your website and was deeply impressed by your highly interactive and user-friendly customer care portal....”
Example 2: A pin-pointed subject line for an individual company - “Supporting ABC to deliver a superior customer experience to its 21 million customers”.
Example 3: Get deep for geo & regional sensitivities. This is not just restricted to differences in (UK & American spellings). For example, using the term “bespoke solutions” is good for APAC & UK and highly avoidable for American audiences. Same goes for “kind regards” for the sign-off. If your marketing organization does not already have one, initiate a repository of words, terms etc., which addresses these sensitivities.
Example 4: Keep the tone conversational – “Hi Barry, last week I had the opportunity of meeting with several executives from top telecom organizations at the XYZ event, in Atlanta. Most agreed that reducing call center staff while improving CSAT continued to be a top priority....”
Ensure that you invest in superior campaign management software that supports intimate customization with minimum headaches and is able to deliver maximum insights with analytics.
Planning content for events deserves equal focus:
- Make the event theme / topic very pin-pointed.
- Practitioner-driven events / webinars are always a big hit. Your prospects will love listening to and getting insights from their peers and co-practitioners.
- Ask a happy client to join you on stage to discuss and present a success story. This will give your organization valuable ‘face-time’ while softening the ‘vendor pitch’.
c. Creativity: Whether reading your email, collateral or attending your events – the time your prospect has is valuable. Look for an out-of-box approach in social media campaigns, product demos, people, venue, agenda, and formats - to make it valuable, memorable and interesting for your audience.
All rules are well-known and understood in theory. However, their disciplined application is key and timing is no different. It comes with an intimate understanding of your business and your customer:
- Do you know the prospect business and purchase cycle?
- What is your prospect vendor’s (and your competitor’s) deal term?
- What are the best campaign months for you and for them?
- Do you know the best days to send an email, or do a breakfast event or host a webinar?
- What would be the best business hour for your prospect to receive your mail or newsletter in the inbox and why?
Receiving positive signals from a prospect during courtship is thrilling and hugely satisfying. But before you pump your fist in the air or do a high-five, make sure that you have a robust qualification system to declare a lead as Hot or Qualified!
Watch this space next week to read STAGE 3 – THE QUALIFICATION
Image Courtesy: katagaci
This is a four-part series about B2B Lead Generation with nuggets for beginners from a Practitioner’s Dossier.
The business of Lead Generation and Nurturing, like account management, is a fine art of courtship... a labor of love.
It requires a thorough and intimate knowledge of the prospect organization; a well thought-out contact / relationship-building plan and oodles of patience and persistence – usually lasting two to three quarters, to help sales bag that $X million deal.
Here are some nuggets, on the strategic marketer’s role for successful Lead Generation:
STAGE 1 – ‘THE HUNT’:
- Organization List. After your prospect list has been whetted by a robust methodology, every prospect account should be profiled in the most intimate fashion.
- Prospect Profiling. Caution! While profiling, do not fall into that monstrous and all-familiar account management template trap here. B2B lead generation is time-bound and therefore prospect profiling requires a different approach – quick, clever and result-oriented.
- Profiling Strategy. While creating the prospect profile, see if you can adopt the – ‘Honey, I shrunk the company’ – theme. Taking a leaf from the Japanese Bonsai craft, you should come up with a full-bodied prospect dossier, cleverly crafted and presented in the briefest possible manner. A craft that every strategic marketer should learn.
- Presenting the Prospect Profile. Using strategic marketing resources, you should compress the entire prospect story (for sales and top management consumption) in not more than 5 to 6 slides.
Here’s how the Bonsai Prospect Profile should ideally look like:
- Slide 1: ‘Standard Overview’ - Key Facts; Key Executives (carefully mapped to your areas of business interest; Spend more time extracting detailed information on SVP, VP and Director level people in LOBs); Recent Strategic Announcements; Revenues & Business Performance; Top competitors.
- Slide 2: Business Overview with key details. Some organizations (especially those in the BFSI segment) are extremely complex in structure. Look at acquisitions, Lines of Business, geo presence etc., and present it crisply. The key here is to simplify. The more complex the prospect organization structure, the more attention you should pay to simplify it and tell the story well.
- Slides 3/4: These will be the meat slides – rich with detailing. These will cover prospect strategy – overall and specific to your area of business.
- Look at prospect annual reports
- Study analyst calls and listen carefully to CXO responses for key take-aways.
- Talk to relevant people in your network.
- Slide 5: The slide that your sales will love – Key Delineations, mapped to specific business opportunities (a product, solution, offering from your organization).
- Avoid an over-reliance on buying lists of key contacts. Marketing, sales and inside sales / cold calling teams should come together to create a focused database.
- Scrub for relevancy & accuracy.
- Slice and dice the contacts by vertical / job title & role / geo etc.
- Don’t forget to get a sign-off by sales on the final contact list.
Was that simple & so familiar? Now comes the tough, but an interesting part.
Watch this space, next week, for Stage 2 of B2B Lead Generation – ‘THE COURTSHIP’.
This exclusive guest post was written by Azra Fathima who is a branding and communication specialist and regularly blogs at www.az-azrasblog.blogspot.com. You can also follow her on twitter atwww.twitter.com/azrafathima.
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